About this

Object details

151 × 151 cm
Inventory number: 
lower left: Jean/ Brusselmans./ 1935.

More about this work

Jean Brusselmans painted the essence of things. He saw the world in lattices and structures, with tilting perspectives that erase and disrupt observation. His compositions are marked by a disarming simplicity, even by apparent awkwardness. Spring is a pictorial record of the landscape around Dilbeek that he saw from his studio window, a scene in which time seems to stand still. Stretches of arable land are yellowish patches, gardens are green patches, and terraced houses are points of contact in illuminated and shadowed colours. Clouds look like stacks of undulating forms. Trees and figures are blocks. There is a great contrast between the angularity of the scene and the distinctive signature in elegantly curled letters.
Brusselmans: ‘It may sound unlikely, but it has to be said that the Brabant landscape would not have its incomparable beauty without the labour and perseverance of these churlish people. The tastefully ordered woodlands, the well-tended vegetable gardens, the cornfields so symmetrically arranged, the paths, the beautifully laid-out roads, everything is their work, everything is the fruit of their long and patient labour.’
Brusselmans’s paintings perfectly bear out the famous aphorism of a patriarch of European modernism, Maurice Denis: ‘A picture [...] is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order’. Yet Brusselmans is an atypical modernist. He was a loner, averse to group formation or the dutiful modernist style manifesto. For a long time he shared an attic studio with Rik Wouters, but belonged only in the margins of the so-called Brabant Fauvists. In Dilbeek he lived a stone’s throw away from the abstract artist Victor Servranckx, but he never joined in with the Antwerp and Brussels abstract artists. He occasionally exhibited with Constant Permeke, Frits Van den Berghe and Gustave De Smet, but called ‘Flemish Expressionism’ a ‘German Expressionism’ and later also typified it as ‘the greatest mistake in the history of Flemish painting in Belgium’.
Brusselmans is a ‘painter’s painter’. Historic -isms of the avant-garde are often both applicable and not applicable to his work. The lattice structures and clearly defined planar structure point to Cubist and Geometric Abstraction influences. But then again, the bold colours, impasted paint and heavy, angular, blocky figures suggest an Expressionist link. Above all, Brusselmans created a highly personal and recognisable synthesising style, and thus occupies a unique position in the history of Belgian modernism. ‘Paint naively, purely, tensely. Be natural’, as he himself said.
In the 1930s Brusselmans was often visited in Dilbeek by the emigré Dutchman Wout Hoeboer. Twenty-six years the junior of the two, various works in oils and gouache of his were directly inspired by Brusselmans’s style, aesthetic and subject matter.

Acquisition history

purchase: erfgenamen Gustave Van Geluwe, 1963

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